Unite calls on Holyrood to take control of employment rights laws

Employment law must be devolved to Scotland as part of the post-Brexit settlement, Unite Scotland has demanded.

The union says that devolution of workplace rights is essential to create a fair and equal society and to protect workers in Scotland from any watering down of legislation by Westminster through the powers contained in the European Union (Withdrawal) bill.

The bill gets its second reading in September and Unite is calling on all Scottish MPs to support its call for the full devolution of employment legislation to Holyrood, along with the minimum wage, health and safety and skills.

This, it says, would not only shield workers in Scotland from Tory government attempts to water down or remove existing rights, but would enable Scotland to create an employment relations framework that promotes collective bargaining and stronger employment laws and allow a distinct Scottish economy to secure growth and achieve higher standards of living.

However, Unite has criticised the Scottish government on its failure to effectively use the powers it already has to defend workers’ rights. Ministers claimed, contrary to Unite’s advice, that EU rules prevented the government banning the blacklisting of trade unionists, banning zero hours contracts, bringing rail and buses into public ownership and enforcing a real Living Wage through procurement legislation.

Unite has also urged Holyrood to follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly in not implementing the Trade Union Act, and to reject other anti-union laws created in Westminster.

The union also believes that outside the EU, but with employment law devolved to Holyrood, many detrimental EU decisions, such as the Swedish derogation which provides an exemption to the right to equal pay for agency workers, could be addressed.

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “The recent Supreme Court decision that employment tribunal fees are unlawful demonstrate that we cannot trust a Conservative government in Westminster to be on the side of working people. For this reason, we are repeating our calls, irrespective of any potential referendums, that Holyrood takes its powers to devolve employment law to Scotland as part of the post-Brexit settlement, before Britain leaves the EU.

“If not devolved, post-Brexit employment laws in Scotland may be determined at UK level without the protection of minimum rights in EU legislation. With the EU withdrawal bill getting its second reading on 7 September, Unite urges all of Scotland’s elected representatives, both at Holyrood and Westminster, to support our calls.”